Morris Communications Corp. v. PGA Tour, Inc., 117
F.Supp. 2d 1322 (M.D. Fla. 2000), is the first reported decision to address
how the publication of news via the Internet may be shaped by antitrust and
intellectual property law. In denying a Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, the Court in Morris noted that the development of a complete
factual record and ìan examination of both bodies of law and their proper
application in a rapidly changing worldî will be necessary to resolve the
underlying controversy between the parties.
Morris Communications Corporation is in the
business of publishing news, in both the traditional print format and
electronically via the Internet. As part of its news coverage, in 1996
Morris began publishing information about golf tournaments on its electronic
newspapers. The most popular feature of its electronic coverage of these
golf tournaments was its publication of real-time golf scores.
As the term suggests, real-time golf scores are
the scores of individual golfers published contemporaneously with, or as near
as possible to, the actual pace of competition at a golf tournament.
These scores are collected at each of the 18 holes on the golf course,
typically by volunteers organized by the tournament's promoter. The
scores are then transmitted, through wireless or other communication devices,
to several locations including the media center located on the tournament
premises. Upon being published in the media center, the golf scores can
then be ìre-keyedî by media organizations into their own computers for
further dissemination, including publication via the Internet. Although
some scores are also published on television, radio, and leaderboards on the
premises, the media center is the only location where the ìofficialî
scores for all the competing golfers are continuously updated and available.
This is particularly true during the first two days of most golf tournaments
when there is normally no television or radio coverage.
Cable News Network/Sports Illustrated (CNN/SI)
was impressed with Morris' electronic coverage of golf tournaments and
contracted with Morris to provide (i.e., syndicate) real-time golf scores.
In 1999, this coverage included all of the professional golf tournaments
promoted by the PGA Tour, Inc. Morris' attempts to cover the PGA Tour
in real-time, however, ran headlong into media restrictions being imposed by
the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour, like other promoters of sports
events, regulates the media coverage of its golf tournaments. These
regulations, which typically concern television, photography and print media,
are contained in press credentials which are issued by the PGA Tour for each
tournament. By obtaining a press credential, a news organization is
permitted access to the tournament premises, including access to the media
center, to report on the tournament. The relationship between the media
and the PGA Tour, as the court in Morris noted, is mutually beneficial:
ìthe media are better positioned to satisfy the public's demand for
golf-related information, and [the PGA Tour] enjoys enhanced publicity, which
in turn generates greater demand for its golf...